The Boy 1814-1822
JAMES MILL met Bentham in 1808. The famous, genial old man, from whom original ideas flowed in an uninterrupted, placid stream, soon grew dependent on the younger man's incisive in- tellect and driving force of character. James Mill drew a small circle of active reformers around them both. Spending the better part of the day in his father's study, John, from the earliest age, listened to the ardent, learned, witty, and most advanced talk in England.
These men were closely knit together much in the way in which a small fanatical religious minority would be among an overwhelming hostile majority. A further bond between most of them was their atheism--in those days a dangerous conviction to be held only in secret. In the discussions and activities of this small group Benthamism passed from a legal aspiration to a political force: Radicalism was born. Like the Fabians seventy-five years later, these men were the avant-garde of their generation. They were certainly far from being typical of their time. Fierce re- action reigned all round. Yet such was the influence their circle radiated into the future that the first quarter of the nineteenth cen- tury came to be called the age of early Radicalism.
In fact, however, it richly deserved the name of the age of re- pression. Since the horrors of the French Revolution, the English and European governing classes were deeply fearful. Momentous developments were afoot that did not fit into the pattern of the